The Republicans vying to become Salt Lake County’s next mayor differ over congressional involvement in aiding a Canadian company dreaming of building a gondola linking its Canyons Resort with Solitude Mountain Resort.
Mike Winder said Wednesday he has no problem with Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, driving legislation that would require the U.S. Forest Service to sell Talisker Inc. land along the Big Cottonwood Canyon ridge — removing the agency from any regulatory authority over the controversial development — because the SkiLink gondola would help Utah’s ski industry.
Mark Crockett also thinks SkiLink would be valuable to ski tourism, but he would prefer to see Congress stay out of the issue and let local governments handle it.
That was one of their main points of difference in a debate, co-sponsored by KUTV and The Salt Lake Tribune, that exposed the GOP candidates to questions from the two news organizations as well as representatives of Save Our Canyons, Utah Taxpayers Association, anti-incorporation forces in Millcreek and Ben McAdams, the Democratic candidate for mayor.
In November, McAdams will face the winner of the June 26 Crockett/Winder primary.
Both Republicans said they had confidence Utah’s ski resorts could add to their operations in environmentally sensitive ways that would not damage water quality in the Cottonwood canyons.
They also were united in their opposition to a publicly funded hotel near the Salt Palace Convention Center and to county financial involvement in a performing arts center in downtown Salt Lake City. And they generally agreed that Millcreek’s incorporation could benefit residents of that east-central Salt Lake Valley community by bringing government decision-making closer to the people.
Where they disagreed was over the level of government involvement in helping bring about economic development.
Winder, West Valley City’s mayor, was proud of his work with the city’s Redevelopment Agency to craft a vibrant downtown with public-private involvement in building a hotel, revitalizing Valley Fair Mall and promoting the Fairbourne Station development.
Crockett, a businessman and former county councilman, favors a hands-off approach for government, advocating instead that the county should tout its assets and let the private sector determine how best to take advantage of those resources.
Winder’s use last fall of the pen name Richard Burwash to write positive articles about his city came up after someone hung a Burwash-for-mayor sign on a fence right next to a Winder campaign sign along Bangerter Highway. Pictures of the similarly designed placards circulated widely Wednesday over the Internet.
“You never know what grenade will be thrown into your lap. Frankly, it hurts. But I have a good sense of humor,” said Winder, emphasizing he had apologized for the deception and would never do it again.
Crockett said he was “sorry the [signs] are out there, but clearly it still matters to people. It keeps coming up.”
On June 26, Republicans will select businessman Mark Crockett or West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder as their candidate to oppose Democrat Ben McAdams in the race for Salt Lake County mayor.